“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson.
Paris is one of my favourite places in the entire world. I’ve been a handful of times, and each time is better than the last. My most recent trip in the middle of May, was a spontaneous road trip with 10 strangers, 1 recently-made friend and a jam-packed Peugeot. It took an entire day and a ferry ride to get there, but the whole journey was full of excitement and sing-a-longs.
The last time I went to Paris was 2013, and this time I knew I wanted to take as many photos as possible and fill a blog post full of fun activities to do and remember, the next time I head to the City of Lights. You need time to wander and photograph as well as see the important sights. A holiday that’s just rushing around sucks the fun out of it. So here’s how to spend two glorious days in Paris.
This incredibly Instagram-worthy restaurant is the idea place to try French cuisine. It’s not the cheapest place in the city, but is veggie and vegan friendly, very cosy and very pink. In the surrounding streets, you can also find other places to eat and explore like La Bonne Franquette and Le Consulat Restaurant which are just as photogenic.
The area gets pretty busy, so it’s good to go early in the morning and get your photos first. Following the cobbled roads, you’ll find affordable souvenir shops and Galerie Butte Montmartre, a super chic art museum and shop at the top of Rue des Saules.
On the first day, we spent about four or five hours in this area, snapping photos and popping in and out of local stores. Every building looks beautiful in its own way, and they all have a different theme, meaning you can choose whatever vibe you feel like when it comes to finding somewhere to eat.
Sacré-Cœur is an all-white church built in 1914 with enormous domes on top of an even bigger hill. When I first went to Paris, I walked every step to the top, but this time I started at the top and got a cable car to the bottom – much less sweating.
I didn’t go inside the church, mainly because I was so distracted by the breath-taking view of the city. I’m not exaggerating when I say the gasp I made when I saw the view alarmed at least 20 people around me, it was like I’d just seen pigs flying. Photos don’t do this sight justice, it’s something you have to see in person. It’s like standing on top of a skyline.
I could have easily sat on the steps for an hour or two, just people-watching and enjoying being in the city.
The Champs-Élysées itself feels like a whole day’s work. I started my walk on this enormous avenue from the Grand Palais and slowly made my way to the Arc de Triomphe for even more photos. There are grand and glamorous stores on either side, including the famous Ladurée Paris for delicious macarons and the Gaumont cinema. You can head to Galerie du Claridge to find the perfect Parisian gift or just browse your way through Louis Vuitton, Etam, L’Occitane and Sephora. They have it all.
The Arc de Triomphe is a famous monument at the centre of one of the most insane roundabouts I’ve ever seen. Driving in general in Paris is pretty wild compared to the UK, but this area looks like a live-action car chase 24/7. There are cars going in every direction, horns beeping every two seconds and people taking chances to cross the road. The Place Charles de Gaulle, which the Arc sits in the middle of, is the centre of twelve different avenues, including the Champs-Élysées.
If you’re going to get a photo of the Arc from the middle, you can cross the road halfway and stand right by the arch – that way, you don’t have to dangerously play with traffic!
The Eiffel Tower will be in this list twice, because you can’t go to Paris without seeing it. You just can’t. The day we planned to see the Tower was also the same day a man decided to climb the side of it, so we didn’t get to go to the top. But that just meant a chance to walk around the gardens and by the carousel which I’ve never done before.
The gardens have a beautiful waterfall, an array of flowers and a play area for children. One thing I also noticed is that the ducks have the same boisterousness that seagulls in the UK have. This one duck, which I have named Daisy, was charming enough to come and say hello and take a nip at one of my friends. She had no shame when it came to posing in front of the camera either, I can only wish I had that level of confidence.
One of the things you face when walking around Palais de Chaillot and the streets around the Eiffel Tower, is street sellers and scam artists. You have people selling souvenirs, toys, alcohol and cigarettes for insane prices, stranger approaching you to buy whatever they’re selling and “performers” who request money before you play their game. I managed to avoid it all, mainly because I find more comfort in buying from a shop than a random person on the street. You never know if they’re selling faulty gifts or something unsafe, so it’s always better to go somewhere you really trust.
Day two in Paris lead us to the Louvre, one of the most famous museums in Paris. It’s home to the Mona Lisa, Liberty Leading the People, The Wedding at Cana and Venus de Milo. If you’re into famous works of art, the Louvre and Musée de l’Orangerie have to be on your list. Below, check out a little guide of the full rates to get into the biggest museums in Paris. It’s important to note, under 18s get in for free with ID and EU residents are entitled to free entry between the ages of 18 and 25 – for this, you need ID with proof of age and residency. On the first Sunday of every month, a lot of the popular museums open with free admissions too. There are also lots of ways to get discounted tickets, so check out the websites before you buy!
The Tuileries Garden was one of my favourite spots on my second day in Paris. I love wandering around public gardens and parks, and this place is perfect when the sun is out. Not only can you see all the beautiful Parisian buildings and balconies, but you’re surrounded by trees and fresh air, right in the middle of the 1st arrondissement of Paris. There are fountains, plenty of places to find a quiet corner alone, deck chairs for relaxing in the sun and La Terrasse de Pomone if you want to sit outside while enjoying a crêpe and coffee.
The Pont des Arts is a bridge across the River Seine that’s easy to access from Tuileries Garden. It’s the bridge to bring a padlock to, write something cute on and throw the key in the river. Although it’s a very romantic and sentimental gesture, it really makes me wonder how so many keys and pieces of litter in the river affects the water, the animals living in it and the general environment. I guess you could always keep the key?
Anyway, if you do forget to bring a padlock, there are shops close by that sell them for a decent rate as well as street sellers who you can bargain with. 45 tonnes worth of padlocks were removed in recent years after fears they weight would cause the bridge to collapse, but there’s still plenty of room there to go ahead with the tradition. The Notre Dame is temporarily closed after the fire in April. You can still get close and take photos, but most of the road is guarded off. I’d check their Twitter feed or website before visiting if you’re looking to go inside.
A short walk along the Quai de Conti leads you to hundreds of shops, restaurants, galleries and museums. I spent most of my time in Shakespeare & Company a bookshop you have to go to if you’re a book-lover like me. They have classic and unique edition copies of literary fiction, new releases, poetry, history, non-fiction and basically everything in between. You can easily spend two hours here. There’s a quiet reading corner, and authors regularly visit and sign books. When you buy from Shakespeare & Company, you have the option to get your book stamped by the iconic store.
What better way to end the perfect weekend in Paris that with a sunset over the city? Without a doubt, one of the best places to take a 360 view of the whole city is the top of the Eiffel Tower. You can do to the top of the Arc de Triomphe but it’s not as high. When it comes to climbing the tower, you have two options: take the stairs and face the winds, or get into a cramped elevator for a quick ride to the top. After already paying €12.70 (as an under 24) to get to the top, I chose the lift. Adults cost €25.50, children between 4-11 or those with a disabled pass can get a ticket for €6.40 and kids under 4 are free. You do have to pay more to get to the top via lift, but I think it’s 100% worth it.
There’s plenty to do once you’re up the tower. The first and second floors are the most spacious whereas the top is pretty cramped. I can’t lie, half the time I was up there making Rush Hour 3 jokes and I’m not ashamed of it.
We were really treated with a sunset at the end of the day. It was unlike any array of hues I’ve ever seen before. The whole city was different colours, and the clouds slowly changed and danced around the sky. My camera was on top form that evening, and I managed to snap a ridiculous number of photos as the sun said goodbye. There wasn’t a single moment I wanted to look away, because I was scared I would miss something special.
Being at the top of the Tower at sunset means you get to experience Paris at night too. Like London, every street and monument lights up and glows. The roads and restaurants are just as busy, but being able to see such an iconic city at all hours of the day is worth it.
Another thing to do when you’re in Paris is Disneyland – but I don’t think that’s just a weekend thing. Part of my trip was Disneyland, and it took three whole days to cover both parks and the village. But don’t worry, there’s a guide coming soon!
Have you ever been to Paris?